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Political fantasy vs. reality

Yesterday, I tossed up what I thought was a rather innocuous piece about politics, with the main gist being that while President Bush's poll numbers were pretty bad for him, I didn't think that automatically meant good news for his opponents. That started a hell of a lot more discussion than I anticipated, and it went off in ways I didn't foresee. Some folks accused me of "fantasizing" and being "delusional," among the more polite terms, and it went downhill from there.

So I figured I'd write a followup piece, specifically about what I THINK will happen, and what I WISH would happen.

I draw a very distinct difference between the two. I like to think of myself as a realist, and able to differentiate between those two things. I see a lot of people who can't or don't, and they bother me as intellectually dishonest.

First, the reality: we are not having an election this November. We are having about 470 elections, where every single seat inthe House and one-third of the Senate will be up for grabs. Ted Kennedy, Patrick Kennedy, and Cynthia McKinney, just to name three folks I'd like to see tossed out, will not have to fear in the least losing my vote, because I can't vote for or against them. (Yes, all three are Democrats, but two are recently scandal-tainted, and my loathing for Teddy transcends politics.)

The two political parties have made a real hash of election laws and regulations, to the point where it is very, very difficult to unseat incumbents. It can happen -- in 2002, a long-serving Senator from New Hampshire was upset in the Republican primary -- but it usually takes extraordinary circumstances. Consequently, over the average turnover in an election is around 3%. In other words, if you get elected to Congress, you have a 97% chance of staying there as long as you like.

When that 3% is placed against the 33 or 34 Senators and 435 Representatives up for grabs, that means that 1 Senator and 13 Representatives will not be re-elected. And since the Democrats need 5 Senate seats and 15 House seats to reclaim the majority, even if they take all of those seats, they will still fall short of winning either House.

Now, the caveat here is the "extraordinary circumstances." There could be other factors at play, factors that hurt Republicans nationwide and actually have a significant effect on those 460-odd elections. (I'm too lazy to actually look up whether it's 468 or 469.) And I just don't see any around yet. President Bush's poll numbers might be low, but they're not coinciding with rising poll numbers for anyone else. As I said yesterday, it's not a zero-sum game. Those unhappy with Bush aren't likely to flock to the Democrats, as a lot of them are conservatives who are displeased with his perceived betrayal of conservative principles. They are not the sort to say "well, if the Republican I voted for is going to act like a Democrat, I might as well go down and vote for a Democrat in the first place and get it over with," they're more likely to say "if I can't vote for someone I like and trust, to hell with them, I'll just not vote this time."

Bush, make no doubt about it, is a polarizing figure -- much like Hillary Clinton. But Bush has done a great deal to play down the extremes. Unfortunately for him, he's done it by taking steps that turn off his supporters, but not helped pull in his detractors. They're still as rabid as ever, but the counterbalancing element has diminished. But I just don't see that translating into a major shakeup in Congress.

So, come November, I see the Democrats making some modest gains in Congress, at best, but in no way taking control of either House.

Now that reality has been dealt with, I'm going to indulge in sheer political fantasy.

I'd like to see at least half the incumbents get tossed out on their asses. I'd like to see a huge freshman class in both houses, filled with eager and idealistic new Congresscritters of both parties looking to shake up the established system and truly clean the Houses. I'd like to see them just try to get as much fixed as they can without worrying about re-election. I'd like to see them dismantle the system that makes incumbency such a powerful factor in elections. I'd like them to revamp the budget process into something that can actually be understood. I'd like to see them fix the tax code into something that can actually be understood enough to be obeyed. I'd like them to establish a new standing committee, the Committee On Repeals, that would be charged with going through the federal code and getting rid of old, useless laws that shouldn't be on the books (presuming they ever should have been on there.) I'd like to see them not bother to learn the ropes around Washington, but cut them all down and find whole new ways of navigating the bureaucracy. And I'd like to see them get rid of a good quarter or so of federal employees, finding ways to do the people's business in a more efficient manner -- or not do some things at all.

For example, I'd like to see the Department of Education go away. It would be better named the Department of Educational Bureaucracy, as it doesn't actually educate a single student, but instead concerns itself with rules, regulations, requirements, and administrators. Just get rid of the whole thing, take all the money it currently consumes, take 25% off the top, and give the rest to individual school districts, divvied up so each district gets the same amount per student. I would be willing to bet almost anything it would result in huge improvements in our educational system.

I say I would be willing to bet anything because it's a safe offer. As I said, that is just a fantasy, just like the idea that more than a dozen or so incumbent Senators and Representatives will be unseated.


Comments (15)

The MSM (and the libs; same... (Below threshold)
docjim505:

The MSM (and the libs; same thing) love to crow about Bush's low poll numbers.

Congress' poll numbers are even lower.

That being said, I think that the incumbents will continue to be reelected. It pretty much takes solids evidence that a member has committed murder or rape to get them booted from office.

Damned shame...

Speaking of fantasies I wou... (Below threshold)
cubanbob:

Speaking of fantasies I would like the RNC grow a pair and start acting like real conservatives.
Simple things like supporting real conservatives against RINO's in primary fights. If that means loosing a few fake Republicans in either house that is sill far better than keeping the fakes and weakening the whole. A few well funded and publicized fights against McCain, Spector and the like would do wonders for party discipline, morale and really bring out the vote in all the elections.

That being said, I... (Below threshold)
pennywit:
That being said, I think that the incumbents will continue to be reelected. It pretty much takes solids evidence that a member has committed murder or rape to get them booted from office.

Oh, yeah! Well what about Gary ... er ... never mind.

--|PW|--

About congressional poll nu... (Below threshold)
pennywit:

About congressional poll numbers ... the problem is that you ask, "What do you think of Congress?" You get: "They're crooks! Boot 'em out!" Then you ask, "What do you think of your congressperson." You get: "Hey, he's not a bad guy."

--|PW|--

Thank god you mentioned McK... (Below threshold)
jp2:

Thank god you mentioned McKinney and Kennedy. Of all the things that this country has faced in the last half-decade, with the war and rampant corruption, these two need to go first. Thanks for the service!

Wow, I thought I was a qui... (Below threshold)
Jonas Planck:

Wow, I thought I was a quixotic dreamer, but man, you take the cake.
The odds of getting anyone elected to office nationally who actually CARES about anything more than their careers is slim to none, much less ALL of congress.
It stems from the way the system is set up. In order to have the money to run the campaign, you must be either incredibly wealthy to begin with (thus, predisposed only to the acquisition of wealth) or already on the take. The system does not allow for genuine reformers to slip past the selection process. It is in fact geared to reward the best liars for lying the most convincingly.

Here's a suggestion: Pay the bastards (all politicians in every branch, including the president) minimum wage, audit them regularly, and subject them to random frequent drug tests and polygraph quizzes. If they refuse to take a test, it's grounds for dismissal. If they fail a test, they're out. Every time they fail to live up to a promise, fine them $100,000 which they shouldn't have. Monitor their every move with video cameras and make them account for every moment they live. Harrey them, harangue them, allow them no privacy whatsoever.
After all, if this "overprotective" treatment is good enough for the American People, then it should be good enough for them, right? They wouldn't ask us to anything they wouldn't do themselves, would they? And why would they want to keep secrets, unless they had something to hide?
This is a fantasy too, but a just one. Call it a soap opera: "As The Worm Turns."

In short, I'd like to see the national dialogue turn from them saying "trust me" over and over to us saying, "prove you can be trusted, and then maybe we'll think about it. Break that trust and we'll hang you from a lamppost."

Meanwhile, back in the real world...

pw,I agree. Well,... (Below threshold)
docjim505:

pw,

I agree. Well, normally: my congresscritter is Mel Watt.

Thank god you mentioned McK... (Below threshold)
viet vet:

Thank god you mentioned McKinney and Kennedy. Of all the things that this country has faced in the last half-decade, with the war and rampant corruption, these two need to go first. Thanks for the service!
Posted by: jp2 at May 10, 2006 02:17 PM

Wow! If this statement isn't indicative of how delusional the Bush apologists have become, then there isn't one. McKinney and Kennedy are worse than Jack Abramoff and Tom Delay, the lies regarding WMD's, the needless deaths of thousands of armed service personel, and the White House's ineptness following Hurrican Katrina? McKinney and Kennedy are the worst things that have happened in the last 5 years?

JP2, if you really believe what you said above, then you need serious psychiatric help.....and so does anyone who agrees with you.

Why does jp2 HATE the USA so much?

pw, docjim...Not me.... (Below threshold)
scsiwuzzy:

pw, docjim...
Not me. I live in NJ. My senators and congresscritter are crooks. Even their supporters here recognize it ("but they're OUR crooks")

viet vet just made my day.<... (Below threshold)

viet vet just made my day.

OMG they are starting to ea... (Below threshold)

OMG they are starting to eat their own!

Now, the caveat here is ... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Now, the caveat here is the "extraordinary circumstances." There could be other factors at play, factors that hurt Republicans nationwide and actually have a significant effect on those 460-odd elections. (I'm too lazy to actually look up whether it's 468 or 469.) And I just don't see any around yet. President Bush's poll numbers might be low, but they're not coinciding with rising poll numbers for anyone else. As I said yesterday, it's not a zero-sum game. Those unhappy with Bush aren't likely to flock to the Democrats, as a lot of them are conservatives who are displeased with his perceived betrayal of conservative principles.

Umm, Jay, do you read the polls or just write about them? From the latest NYTimes Poll:

The problems plaguing the Republicans have clearly helped the Democrats: 55 percent said they now had a favorable view of the Democratic Party, compared with 37 percent with an unfavorable view. By contrast, 57 percent had an unfavorable view of Republicans, compared with 37 percent who had a favorable view.

Now granted that does not necessarily translate into individual races, where many will be voting for a person rather than a party affiliation (ok, maybe not that many), but I don't know how you can reconcile those numbers with "President Bush's poll numbers might be low, but they're not coinciding with rising poll numbers for anyone else." So with Congress as a whole polling very poorly, the Republicans polling much poorer than a few years ago, and Democrats polling much better, you conclude that the polls are not too significant, election-wise, because you don't see any "extraordinary circumstances"? How about the trillion dollar war most people feel was a mistake, the $3+ gas prices, the ever-rising national debt, and the prospect of another fucking war in Iran (which you are cheerleading), Katrina, and a whole host of other bad news, bad luck, and incompetence. You don't consider those things extraordinary enough to predict a more than average election turnover this year?

I'm glad you don't charge $3.99 a minute for your fortune telling (or reality, as you call it). I predict it will be as realiable as the Psychic Friends Network (though it is reassuring to its audience, just like they are).

Instead of taking 75% of De... (Below threshold)
Nate:

Instead of taking 75% of Dept of Ed budget and dispencing it to school districts cut 100% of it out of the budget, cut taxes by an equal amount and let the counties tax for the needed money. If the money never goes to Washington it's harder for them to abuse it. I also have considerably more control over my county politicans then federal poloticians.

Anyone that quotes the NYTi... (Below threshold)
JohnFrenchKerry:

Anyone that quotes the NYTimes poll of anything? has to first include the 3 to 1 liberal to conservative New Yorker ratio as a qualifier, in other words the NYT is asking predominantly lib NYers a poll question just for the purpose of skewing the results to their political end. we already know the Jason Blair Times is a paper of multiple Dan Rathers! in other words a worthless endeavor into enquirer gossip reporting.

"In short, I'd like to see ... (Below threshold)

"In short, I'd like to see the national dialogue turn from them saying "trust me" over and over to us saying, "prove you can be trusted, and then maybe we'll think about it. Break that trust and we'll hang you from a lamppost."

Jonas, you are my hero.




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